Muto: Tokyo 2020 Will Happen With or Without Covid-19

(ATR) An expert says a traditional Olympics "is absolutely the worst thing that we could do to contain" the virus.

(ATR) Tokyo 2020 CEO Toshiro Muto says the postponed Olympics will be held next summer even if the coronavirus remains a threat.

Muto, in an interview with the Financial Times, says "the important thing is to deliver an Olympics for people who must live with Covid-19".

He admits that a crucial part of holding an Olympics during the pandemic will be an effective anti-virus strategy. Muto says that the Japanese national government needs to set those parameters.

To control costs, Muto reiterated the idea of a smaller Summer Games, telling the Financial Times "we want something simple but inspiring".

While financial concerns appear to be primarily driving a scaled back event, it would seem the possibility of holding a typical Olympics with Covid-19 still active are slim to none anyway.

An expert on coronavirus and super-spreader events tells Around the Rings that a full-blown Olympics could derail global progress in the fight against the disease.

"Running the Olympics in the traditional manner, especially in a mega-city like Tokyo (with a large, interconnected and heavily-utilized public transport system) is absolutely the worst thing that we could do to contain global transmission of a virus like this," Professor Michael Small warned in an email interview with ATR.

Small, a mathematician at the University of Western Australia, studied the transmission of the 2003-8 SARS outbreak in Hong Kong. The coronavirus carrying the Covid-19 disease is a near-genetic replica of the 2003 SARS coronavirus.

Small emphasized that he is not an epidemiologist and his comments should only be seen in the academic silo of mathematical studies of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Small’s "optimistic" outlook for the future is having transmission under control "by the end of 2020". To him, "under control" means not only limiting transmission but also "limiting large gatherings and movement of people".

"The so-called ‘second wave’, if indeed it occurs as a discrete event, is unlikely to have finished by then," Small predicted when asked what the state of the pandemic will be at the time of the Tokyo Opening Ceremony, now scheduled for July 23, 2021.

He says he is weary of certifying the Olympics may or may not be safe, but in his view, possible dangers lurk everywhere. Limiting the number of spectators has been brought up as an option. But Small says if it is not done properly, it won’t help matters.

"One big issue that would remain though, and has not been thoroughly discussed, is that while limiting gathering to a fixed size works to limit spread, it would not work well if the participants are constantly part of different gatherings.

"That is, if you impose a 20-person limit then that will limit opportunity for super-spreader events, but if participants are then constantly part of distinct 20-person groups then this is no better than not having such limitations."

He added: "it is not within my area of expertise, but I would also suspect that a global gathering would also increase the risk of further mutation and development of new strains of the virus. Again, I am not a virologist, but as an individual I am concerned about this."

And, of course, Small’s comments assume there is no "magic bullet" of a vaccine or guaranteed treatment ahead of time for Tokyo 2020.

Written by Gerard Farek

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